Concrete countertops – pros & cons…

I just finished a bit of maintenance/polishing up of our kitchen countertops. It got me thinking. I get a lot of questions about our kitchen countertops.  I talked briefly about our countertops when I was presenting our kitchen, but that was just a “these things are amazing and beautiful” kind of thing. So, I thought a little review in the form of a Q&A might be in order for those thinking about countertop materials.

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What is your countertop material?  It’s concrete. Interestingly, a lot of people initially think that our countertops are a metal of some sort. While it is concrete, it is a special concoction specifically for countertops. It includes some glass fibers for strength  – or so I was told by the countertop guys.

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Why did you choose concrete?  I wanted something with a bit of an industrial edge. I wanted something unique. I wanted something reasonably priced. Concrete won out over quartz and soapstone.

Did you make the countertops yourself?  No. I thought about DIY-ing the countertops – briefly. After doing a bit of research, I decided I would leave it up to someone who had done it before. I feel like it was money well spent.

Were the countertops poured in place?  No. The countertops were templated much like stone, made offsite, and delivered in a completely finished state. No mess. No dust. No noise. I didn’t have to do a thing – well, other than write a check.

Are the countertops as heavy as stone?  Yes. In fact, I am told that concrete countertops weigh more than stone ones. The weight of our countertops is enough to keep the countertops in place without glue – or any other securement method. That’s pretty heavy.

Is the concrete protected with some sort of sealer?  I am sure there are a number of different options out there. I went with just a wax finish.  It has worked out pretty well for us.  It has been a lot less maintenance than I expected.

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How do you maintain the concrete?  I am sure other people have a whole sealing routine down pat. I don’t. I have tried a number of things because I thought I was supposed to be doing something on a regular basis to keep the countertops in perfect shape.  I tried using the above pictured wax that the countertop guys recommended. It’s difficult to use and doesn’t really make the countertops look any better.  What it does do is provide a barrier to repel stains and such. So, I can’t really bad mouth it. It does it’s job. It’s just that I expected more from it.  I also tried the recommended countertop spray/polish. The directions say to use it weekly. I only tried it twice. Just as with the wax, it provides a barrier. It’s easier to use than the wax, but it doesn’t polish the countertop perfectly. I was expecting a shiny, perfect polish.  I didn’t get that. As a result, I am not sure it’s worth the effort of ordering it up (it isn’t available locally – another point against it) – and it is kind of pricey.  So, I decided to try out some other alternatives. So far, beeswax is the frontrunner.  It works as well in providing a barrier as the wax and polish. It is easy to apply and buff out (the photo below is beeswax maintenance in process). It is food safe. It provides a pretty decent shine – not perfect – but definitely decent. Chalk one up for the bees.

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Can you set hot pans on the concrete?  I haven’t tried to do this, but I am going to guess the answer is “no”. I think the wax on the countertop would melt pretty fast if a hot pan was set down on it.  I have a bazillion dish towels so throwing something down to protect the countertop isn’t a big problem for me. Better safe than sorry – don’t set hot stuff on concrete countertops.

Can you cut directly on the countertop?  I haven’t actually tried to cut directly on our countertop. Though I have used cookie cutters directly on the countertop with no problems. When I finally bought some decent knives, they (as in the people at the kitchen store where I got the knives) told me to always use a wood cutting board so as to keep the knives sharp and in good shape.  Plus, cutting directly on stone or concrete reminds me of fingernails on the chalkboard thing. I don’t like that. It makes me cringe. Eliminate cringing – please use a cutting board people.

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Does it stain easily?  I haven’t had any big problems with staining. The wax seems to do a pretty good job of providing a barrier. I have experienced problems with wax deterioration or concrete discoloration/etching with lemon juice splatters. Initially, I was sort of annoyed with this, but it has added to the patina-ed look and feel of the countertops. While I appreciate the patina of a well loved and used countertop, I still want to avoid any potential problems with excessive staining and etching. So, I am pretty consistent about keeping the countertops clean and wiped down when things get spilled. Concrete countertops might not be for you if a little “lived in patina” isn’t your thing.

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Is concrete durable for countertop material?  For the most part, yes. I have noticed a few small chips here and there with continued use.

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We had a bigger chunk break out when Tad accidentally dropped a cereal bowl from about 2 feet up.  I used epoxy to fill the hole. I also just filled the most recent chips/ pin holes with epoxy.  I initially tried using a slurry for filling (because I don’t much like to use epoxy), but the slurry didn’t work as well as the epoxy.

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If you could do it all over, would you choose concrete again?  Yes – definitely. I have ended up really liking the character and imperfections that have developed over time.  I thought that would drive me crazy – it hasn’t. I’ve embraced the lack of perfection. I like that it is unique to our house. My favorite feature is still the thick, flush edge. At this point, I can’t imagine any other kind of countertop in our kitchen.

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